Princeton Professors Take on 'Princeton Mom'

March 27, 2014

Susan Patton set off an uproar and became known as "Princeton Mom" when she last year urged women at Princeton University to focus on landing a husband, lest they be left out by graduating without one. She earned a book deal and is now promoting that book with appearances in which she discusses her controversial views. The Daily Princetonian recently ran a question-and-answer interview with Patton that featured this exchange:

Daily Princetonian: You wrote: "Please spare me your ‘blaming the victim’ outrage," saying that a provocatively dressed drunk woman "must bear accountability for what may happen." Why does the woman hold the responsibility in the case of rape or sexual assault?

Patton: The reason is, she is the one most likely to be harmed, so she is the one that needs to take control of the situation. She is that one that needs to take responsibility for herself and for her own safety, and simply not allow herself to come to a point where she is no longer capable of protecting her physical self. The analogy that I would give you is: If you cross the street without looking both ways and a car jumps the light or isn’t paying attention, and you get hit by a car — as a woman or as anybody — and you say, "Well I had a green light," well yes you did have a green light but that wasn’t enough. So in the same way, a woman who is going to say, "Well the man should have recognized that I was drunk and not pushed me beyond the level at which I was happy to engage with him," well, you didn’t look both ways. I mean yes, you’re right, a man should act better, men should be more respectful of women, but in the absence of that, and regardless of whether they are or are not, women must take care of themselves.

The comments so angered Princeton faculty members that scores of them signed a joint letter denouncing Patton's views. "In light of statements made in a news article in this paper, we wish to inform the students on this campus that we do not believe that their manner of dress or drinking behavior makes them responsible for unwanted sexual contact," the letter said. "It is extremely important that individuals of all genders on a college campus feel comfortable reaching out for help. We, the undersigned faculty, stand behind victims of sexual assault and want them to know that our campus is a place where they have a voice, where they will not be made to feel responsible and where they can find support and justice."



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